Christmas, when you have a five-year-old in the house, takes on a completely new look. Seeing the continual wonder in her eyes, hearing the excitement when she spies yet another house decked out in twinkling lights for the season, sends you back to your own childhood. You can almost feel your own eyes getting wider and wider as the season approaches.
For the last I-don’t-know-how-many years, I have complained that Christmas was approaching too quickly, that I wasn’t ready, that I had too much to get done. I’m just as behind this year as usual, but still, just this week, I found myself in earnest discussion with my daughter, whole-heartedly agreeing with her that Christmas seems such a long way away!
I think the difference is that my daughter is reminding me how to enjoy the season, not anticipate it, not worry it away with trivialities and details. Instead, I am noticing the details, mostly because they are being pointed out to me. Each time a new gift appears underneath the tree, it is duly noted, wondered about, shaken and stirred. It’s been decades since I have given gifts such a thorough going over.
When we decorated our tree this year, there were a thousand questions about every ornament, and stories were told and memories renewed. When we cut our tree, she got a “souvenir” piece from the bottom of the trunk that she later took to school and showed her teachers and friends. It’s been a long time since I really smelled freshly cut pine or ran my fingers on the unfinished wood, or looked at the rings of the tree.
It’s been a long time since I have done more than merely set out the nativity. Our daughter plays with it, moves the wise men around, gives voice to the characters who make up the scene. She is actively engaged with the Christmas story with an enthusiasm and curiosity that I had forgotten.
We have even started a tradition on weekend mornings. She usually wakes up before the sun is up, and she and I will sit on the living room sofa, underneath a cozy afghan, light the tree and watch it. Sometimes we are quiet, sometimes we talk—about dreams or fears or wishes. I remember as a child and even teenager, spending a lot of time lying on the living room carpet, staring at the lights on the tree, looking at my reflection in the glass balls that adorned it, and dreaming.
My daughter is sooo excited about Christmas. She’s bright-eyed and full of wonder. She’s enthusiastic and observant—not missing a detail. And that has been good for me. She has reminded me of my own childhood. She has reminded me what it is to approach the Christmas Story with the curiosity and open mind of a child. She is teaching me how to spend this season in each moment instead of worrying so much about what has to be done that the moments pass before I know they were even there.
Christmas. So often you hear that Christmas is for children. In some ways it is. Only with a child’s willingness to be openly enthusiastic and unabashedly awed can you fully experience each and every moment of this special time of friends, family, light and love.
It takes a child to open our hearts to receive the season.
©2011 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.